The inability to sleep has been one of the fundamental experiences since the onset of (industrial) modernity and few diagnoses of the times are as self-evident as that we live in an age of sleeplessness. At first glance, the complete indifference that philosophy has shown towards this phenomenon is therefore astonishing. The project “Insomnias”, on the other hand, will attempt to approach the particular philosophical significance of this specific incapacity, initially in terms of cultural history and phenomenology.
In its endeavour to first denaturalise sleep (as a form of unproductive loss) and then to banish it from itself, modernity has not only created an uninterrupted wakefulness and alertness, but also an immense sleeplessness. Paradoxically, however, we are haunted by the ostracised part of modernity, by an anonymous existence, the inability and inertia of the body. Insomnia thus not only represents a particular epistemological standpoint in relation to individual existence, but also evokes a special form of historical consciousness. This figure of haunting therefore poses the question of to what extent and how insomnia has political potential.


Talk: “Schlaflosigkeiten” at Polysophie, University of Vienna, 07.06.2024